"Before the thousands of spectators arrive; before the hundreds of cops and assorted emergency personnel; before the reporters, the merrymakers, the sidewalk hustlers; before the buzzy traffic jam of befezzed Shriners wedged into the seats of their little red buggies; before the posse of mismatched knights led by a regal Joan of Arc astride an ivory steed; before the mule-drawn carts and the tractor-borne floats festooned in papier-mâché everything: papier-mâché flowers, papier-mâché velvet, papier-mâché Greek gods; before the high school marching bands and dance teams—before this great scrum of humanity takes to the streets, all mobilizing in pursuit of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, they come: the flambeau carriers, the men, and a few women, who will light the streets."

To read more, click on Skip Bolen's photograph that accompanied the piece in the Spring 2017 issue of The Oxford American: